Global citizenship a growing sentiment among citizens of emerging economies shows global poll for BBC World Service

The poll’s finding, that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens, will challenge many people’s (and organisations’) ideas of what the future might look like.Doug Miller, Chairman, GlobeScan
Date: 28.04.2016     Last updated: 14.12.2016 at 11.48
Category: World Service
For the first time in 15 years of tracking by GlobeScan, findings indicate that nearly one in two people (49 per cent) surveyed across 14 tracking countries see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country. This sentiment is being driven by citizens of large emerging economies, according to a new poll for the BBC World Service.

The poll, conducted by GlobeScan among more than 20,000 people worldwide between December 2015 and April 2016, is being released as part of the BBC World Service Identity Season — a spring season of broadcasts on the World Service’s 27 language services exploring stories about how people identify themselves around the world.

Among all 18 countries where this question was asked in 2016, the poll suggests more than half (51 per cent) see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country, against 43 per cent who identify nationally. This is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that there is a global majority who leans this way, and the results in 2016 are driven by strong increases since 2015 in non-OECD countries, including Nigeria (73 per cent, up 13 points), China (71 per cent, up 14 points), Peru (70 per cent, up 27 points), and India (67 per cent, up 13 points).

Looking at the 14 tracking countries that have been surveyed repeatedly since 2001, a growing divide appears on the topic of global citizenship between respondents from developing economies and those from industrialised countries. At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, views were fairly similar across the two country groupings, with 48 per cent in seven OECD countries seeing themselves more as global citizens than national, and 45 per cent in seven non-OECD countries. This sentiment has continued to grow at a strong pace since then among respondents in emerging economies to reach a high of 56 per cent in both 2015 and 2016. Conversely, in seven OECD countries it has followed an opposite trajectory, dropping to a low of 39 per cent in 2011 and remaining at low levels since (now at 42 per cent). This latter trend has been particularly pronounced in Germany, where the poll suggests identification with global citizenship has dropped 13 points since 2009 to only 30 per cent today (the lowest since 2001).

The poll also asked about the level of approval for different demographic developments changing the population make-up of their country, and results indicate public opinion is generally quite supportive of a number of trends shaping global society. In the 19 countries surveyed for this series of questions, three quarters (75 per cent) of respondents approve of intermarriage between different races or ethnic groups, and more than six in ten (63 per cent) approve of immigration from other countries (with 31 per cent disapproving). Similar degrees of openness are observed on accepting refugees, with 62 and 57 per cent respectively supporting their country admitting refugees fleeing conflict generally, and from Syria in particular. On all of these statements, German attitudes stand out due to the unusually high percentage of respondents choosing 'neither agree nor disagree', or that it 'depends'. A majority of Germans (54 per cent) nonetheless approves the acceptance of Syrian refugees.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller comments: “The poll’s finding that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens will challenge many people’s (and organisations’) ideas of what the future might look like.”

Other Findings

An additional question on the poll gave respondents a broader range of options to reflect on how they consider their identity. Results reveal the complexity of the issue and show how people can identify in different ways.

When offered a choice between five distinct identities, more than one in two citizens (52 per cent) across 19 countries define their most important identity as citizens of their country, outnumbering those who view themselves as being a world citizen (17 per cent), a resident of their local community (11 per cent), or who identify themselves primarily through their religion (9 per cent), or their race or culture (8 per cent). Out of 19 countries, majorities or strong pluralities in 16 countries describe being a national citizen as the most important feature of their identity. National citizenship is the strongest in Kenya (84 per cent) and Ghana (81 per cent), followed by Russia (70 per cent), Nigeria (68 per cent), and Chile (64 per cent).

Three countries stand out in the way their populations think about self-identity. Spaniards are by far the most likely to identify with world citizenship (54 per cent). For 56 per cent of Indonesians, belonging to their local community is the strongest defining identity. And for Pakistanis, a strong plurality (43 per cent) identify first as a member of their religion.

The results are drawn from a telephone and in-person survey of 20,823 adult citizens across 21 participating countries in total. Not all questions were asked in all countries. The poll was conducted for the BBC World Service between 2 December 2015 and 15 April 15 2016 by the international opinion research and consultancy firm GlobeScan and its national research partners. Within-country results are considered accurate within +/- 2.8 to 3.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Urban-only samples were used in Brazil, China, Indonesia, and Kenya.